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Democratization without Development: Benin 1989–2009

  • Thomas BierschenkEmail author
Article

Abstract

In contrast to a widely held view that sees Benin’s democratic transition in 1989 primarily as the fall-out of global tendencies, this paper focuses specifically on the internal causes of this historical event, which it locates in the context of the history of Dahomey/Benin since 1960 and the country’s political economy. It argues that, while the Renouveau Démocratique doubtlessly represented a significant step towards democracy, it did little to change the country’s deep-rooted political-economic structures. Since Dahomey gained independence in 1960, it has been a structurally deficient rent-based economy. None of the regime changes of the past 50 years—independence in 1960, the adoption of Marxist-Leninism in 1974 or the Renouveau Démocratique of 1989/90—have succeeded in changing anything in relation to this fundamental fact. Thus, the crisis of 1989 was primarily a crisis of a particular pattern of political-economic regulation. None of the regime changes of the last 50 years, however, succeeded in resolving the country’s basic development problem, i.e. how to transform a structurally deficient rent-based economy into a productive one. Likewise, throughout the entire period from 1960 to 2009, basic elements of the political culture of the country remained unchanged. Neopatrimonialism, personalization, authoritarianism, regionalism and generationalism became, at best, more subtly differentiated as a result of the democratic renewal. To this extent, the Beninese democratic renewal of 1989/90 highlights the problematic connection between democracy and economic development.

Keywords

Democracy Development Rentier state Political culture Neopatriomonialism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and African StudiesJohannes Gutenberg UniversityMainzGermany

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